Sue Hensley: 40 Under 40 2012

SVP, Public Affairs and Communications, National Restaurant Association

Sue Hensley has had a remarkable career to date and now is giving the whole nation food for thought. As SVP of public affairs and communications for the National Restaurant Association, she has led a number of highly successful initiatives. Among those was the Dine for America program in 2005, an effort that mobilized 17,500 restaurants to host a national dine-out day that raised nearly $13 million for the American Red Cross, benefiting those hit by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Recently, Hensley was a critical part of the team that created the Kids LiveWell program that sets nutrition criteria for restaurants and helps parents choose healthy options. The launch of that particular campaign in July 2011 generated nearly 200 million media impressions across traditional and social media channels. A Twitter party with mom bloggers in February trended worldwide and is estimated to have reached 6 million people, while Hensley has overseen the development of a smartphone app for Kids LiveWell. In large part due to continued PR momentum, the program has grown over the course of nine months from 19 brands and 15,000 locations to 88 brands and 25,000 locations.

Other key achievements include blazing a trail in the industry by creating and launching the association’s sustainability initiative Conserve, helping restaurant owners and employees find ways to save energy and water, as well as recycle. Hensley has also helped implement the America Works Here campaign, which tells the story of the American restaurant industry as the nation’s second-largest private-sector employer, creating two award-winning films.

In the past, Hensley held senior roles with the US Small Business Administration and US Department of Labor. In addition, Hensley worked as a Senate communications director.

"Sue has always been a trailblazer," says Scott DeFife, EVP for policy and government affairs at the National Restaurant Association. "She’s a strategic thinker who knows how to motivate a team."

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